Thursday, 17 March 2016

MIEExpert Spotlight #9: Karen Stadler from Cape Town talks about her use of Skype in the classroom

This is the sixth post in the series "MIEExpert Spotlight for South Africa". The tab with all the posts can be found at:  http://bit.ly/1ZYy8Z7. Today we focus on Karen Stadler who is the Senior Primary Technology Integration Specialist at Elkanah House Senior Primary in Cape Town. She is also a 2016 Microsoft MIEExpert Educator. Karen is well known globally especially for her Travelling Rhino project and her award-winning wiki. In 2015 Karen represented South Africa at the Microsoft Global Forum in Dubai and she wrote an excellent blog post about her experience there.

Karen Stadler from Elkanah House in Cape Town has used technology to make learners in over 100+ classes in 55 countries (at the last count) aware of the plight of rhinos in South Africa. Karen’s ‘Save our rhinos’ project involved hand-made rhinos travelling to classrooms around the world to raise awareness of the fact that rhinos are facing extinction and to unite the voices of the children of the world to ensure the future existence of the rhino.


Karen says that whilst the ‘Save our rhinos’ project is the project of my heartnot in my wildest dreams did I think that two and a half years down the line my rhino project would still be current and growing in momentum.” The project has pulled at the heartstrings of teachers and students and has inspired classes in every continent to either conduct their own activities to raise awareness about rhinos or to at least become more aware about rhinos and the myths surrounding their horns.

Karen’s use of Skype in the classroom
Karen attributes many of the successes of the ‘Save our rhinos’ project to being able to use Skype for collaboration between classes and for her to communicate with other teachers. Stadler has found that her involvement in the ‘Save our rhinos’ project has led to students from around the world seeing her as an expert on rhinos and says that Skype makes it possible to take an expert to a classroom on the other side of the world and for children to speak directly to the expert. Stadler says that speaking to students from around the world has made her realize the effect that project based learning has had and that she is “awe-stuck by the caliber of higher-order questions I am asked from learners as young as in Grade 2.”

“Skype allows you to connect with the world. I wouldn’t have been able to do all this without Skype. As a result of Skype and my global projects I know so many teachers around the world.”
In addition to using Skype extensively in the “Save our rhinos” project, Karen has been involved in a range of other activities that make use of Skype including Mystery Skypes and a 24 hour Skypathon with Beverley Ladd around 35 countries. Karen also follows @SkypeClassroom on Twitter to stay abreast of ways that Skype can be used to enhance education. “We mostly use Skype when we are connecting with overseas schools in little projects such as our recent one called Crazy Crazes where we compared crazes amongs our learners. We also compared a day in our lives at school. All our comparisons were presented on a wiki.


 Although Skype has made it easier for teachers trying to set up collaborative projects, Stadler notes that “Time zone differences when using Skype are always a challenge. We have to prepare well before and try to work around time zones.” The Skype in the Classroom website can help teachers to overcome this challenge by finding teachers and classes who wish to collaborate who live in similar time zones or teachers can use asynchronous tools to communicate at times where it is not possible to chat at the same time. Stadler says, “The new Skype Translate looks as though it could be a very useful tool as it will make it easier to connect students who do not share a common language." 


In 2014 Karen Stadler’s ‘Save our rhinos’ project won the prestigious ISTE SIGOL Online Learning Award and her ‘Save our rhinos’  wiki was selected as a finalist in the Edublogs Awards. Stadler was also selected as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and attended the Global Forum in Dubai. She says she learnt a great deal at the Dubai Global Forum and was especially interested in the concept of deeper learning which she has used as a basis for a project based learning framework which is being introduced at Elkanah House. Stadler especially loved meeting like-minded teachers at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Dubai. As a globally aware teacher Karen is always looking out for new classes to connect with.  “I was really happy that some other African countries showed interest in our Rhino  project whilst in Dubai – Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia. I am very keen to connect with them via Skype.”

The Microsoft competition has motivated Karen to keep on doing what she is doing.  “I am very happy at the innovation shown in Microsoft products. I love Sway, and I am delving into Office Mix. I want to look at OneNote next. I feel this technology needs to be freely available to every child in every school in South Africa. We have such underprivileged schools that would benefit so much.  I’d love to see that become a reality. I love the way Microsoft has surprised me! They have some really exciting stuff. I love their emphasis on education and the way they think out of the box. I love the way they celebrate teachers. “

Find out more about using Skype in the classroom
You’ll find a number of Skype lessons on the Microsoft Educator Community at http://bit.ly/1VizGOL. Once you are signed in on the Microsoft Educator network type 'Mysetery Skype'into the search bar to find teachers wanting to set up a Mystery Skype collaboration.  Mystery Skype is when two teachers set up a Skype experience between their classes. The classes have to guess each other's location. 


Get involved in the Microsoft MIEE program in 2017
If you are a teacher who likes to be innovative in the classroom, think about entering Microsoft's Innovative Teacher MIEExpert program in 2017 when applications reopen later in the year. You can learn more about the program at this link: http://bit.ly/1H4gKcBon the Microsoft Educator Community. 

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